Lesson plan

Words That Make Us Feel: A Lesson on Sensory Language

Use storytelling to teach your first graders about sensory language in this interactive lesson.
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What do you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel in the story? First graders will dive into the word meaning behind sensory language in different stories, and find out how they help describe an experience. The lesson plan Words That Make Us Feel: A Lesson on Sensory Language helps students identify words and phrases that suggest feelings and appeal to the senses. After they learn more about this concept, they will use sensory words in their own writing to describe an experience.

Students will be able to identify words and phrases that suggest feelings and appeal to the senses.

(5 minutes)
  • Gather students together for the start of lesson.
  • Show the cover of Owl MoonBy Jane Yolen and ask the students to describe what they see. Encourage your students to give specific details by following up with questions such as, “What makes you say that? Tell me more about that.”
  • Write I see/I feel/I hear/I smell/I tasteOn the board in 5 columns, with space to write beneath each column.
  • Ask your students to imagine being the child on the cover illustration. Have them close their eyes and think about what they might see/hear/smell/taste/feel if they were in the woods. Ask guiding questions to support their thinking such as, "What might you see and hear in the woods during the day? How about at night? What kinds of smells might be in the woods?"
  • Invite students to share out and record their thinking on the board.
  • Explain that today you will be reading a story and noticing the sensory language, which is when we use words to describe things or feelings in a way that reminds us of our different senses. Say, “Some authors work hard to write a story that makes us feel like we are there by using sensory language. Let’s read Owl MoonAnd listen for those details.”
(15 minutes)
  • Read aloud Owl MoonBy Jane Yolen.
  • As you are reading, stop and note the words being used (descriptive sensory language).
  • Ask your students to think about the language they heard and pair-share with a partner some of the parts of the story that gave sensory details (or described things using senses).
  • Refer back to the five senses words from the previous section and explain that writers call this type of descriptive writing “using sensory language,” or using words that remind us of our feelings and senses.
  • Tell your students that they will now get to practise identifying the sensory language and details they heard in Owl Moon.
(10 minutes)
  • Display the Sensory Language practise worksheet on the board or write each prompt on chart paper or a whiteboard.
  • Ask your students to name a character from the book (ex. the child or father) and what they might have experienced in the story.
  • Have your students think about the story that they just heard. Point to the first box titled, “I see…” and ask them to think about what the character saw in the book and how the author described what she saw (ex. the description of the snow).
  • Continue to go over each section of the worksheet and fill it in using student comments.
  • If you want, you can pause between sections and have students turn and talk to a partner to share their ideas for each section.
  • Finish filling in each section of the worksheet and spend a few minutes re-reading it to the students, noting the sensory language and details.
  • When finished, explain that students will now get to write their own sensory details by describing an experience they have had.
(15 minutes)
  • Ask students to think about an experience they had (camping, going to the store, making dinner, etc.)
  • Have them turn and talk with a partner about their experience.
  • Go over the Sensory Language practise worksheet. Be sure to explain that this should be about a familiar experience that the student has had.
  • Have students raise their hand when they are ready to begin. Call on one student at a time and have them briefly state the experience they plan to write about, pass out their worksheet, and send them to work independently.
  • Circulate around the room and offer support as needed.


  • Gather students who need additional support into a small group. Complete the worksheet as a group using an experience that the students have in common, such as a field trip or in school event.


  • Have students complete a second worksheet about a different experience.
(5 minutes)

Collect student worksheets and assess whether students were able to include sensory language in each of the five categories.

(5 minutes)

After the 15 minutes of independent work time has concluded, ask students to return to the rug with their worksheets. Ask for volunteers to read one or two sections aloud to the class. After each student finishes reading, ask the class to point out sensory details they heard. Address student questions as needed.

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